If you think of truck drivers as pie-eating tough guys in blue singlets, then think again. Australian transport company Mainfreight has transformed its drivers into wireless wizards with the introduction of a national freight tracking system.
Dubbed the magic wand by drivers, the truckies are using Symbol handheld units (SPT1700) with Siemens GPRS modem and an iDeliver software application to instantly process consignment details from collection and delivery points back to the office.
This enables customers to track the latest position of their consignment from their own PC and as drivers are online all the time they no longer have to stop and start their journey to take hand-written notes via two-way radio.
Instead of completing paperwork at the depot or delivery point drivers scan the barcode of the consignment and the 'magic wand' does the rest.
Mainfreight project manager Brad Greer said the company no longer suffers one of the biggest frustrations in the industry - lost paperwork, adding: "Tracking freight with paperwork which is peppered with a medley of human errors was far from automatic and efficient."
Greer said the wireless technology gives the company a real competitive edge because customers are impressed by the ability to track their consignments in real-time and it has also bought an end to lunch-smudged consignment notes and illegible invoices.
He said freight mistakes have been overcome, because all job information is digital and processed automatically.
"The vastness of Australia makes it hard for transport providers to communicate and track long-haul vehicles in real time; we estimate the iTouch business mobility system will deliver physical ROI within two years, but the real return is being at the forefront of the market using this technology," Greer said.
Mainfreight Australia has 13 transport branches, 1500 employees and a 150-strong fleet of trailers, vans and 12-tonne delivery trucks with a national distribution network from Townsville to Melbourne and Tasmania to Perth.
Greer said the company plans to add a digital sign-off feature to confirm proof of delivery and are adding e-mail to enable general communication and enquiries between drivers and the office.
"Since other departments spotted the magic wands we now have management and sales teams using GPRS mobile technology to communicate back to the office via CRM, SMS and e-mail applications; they are even catching on to Bluetooth technology."
Boasting that future possibilities for the system are endless, Greer said the company is here for the "long haul" with Web surfing replacing two-way radio as the new communication norm for today's truckies.